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The Meet review: indulgent veganism for all

13 November 2018 Billie Manning

Punning upon their plant-based ethos, The Meet is a vegan restaurant located under the arches smack bang in the middle of Clapham.

The pop-up uses the industrial vibe of its surroundings to its advantage; the bare-brick walls of Fu Manchu play host to sparse tables with high and low seating. The atmosphere is chilled out. This is certainly not a chaste-salad-with-a-side-of-holier-than-thou kind of place. The Meet’s USP is indulgent veganism: plant-based meals that will be as warm and comforting as a hug from your Nan while staying sustainable and totally free of animal products.
 
As a vegan or vegetarian diner it can be very overwhelming to suddenly be presented with a menu-ful of legitimately viable options for your dinner out. Usually faced with pointing lackadaisically at a halloumi burger (note to all restaurants: please, please stop making your only vegetarian dish a halloumi burger), I sometimes wonder if I only became vegetarian to relieve the needling pressure of my choice-paralysis anxiety. And the choice at The Meet is not constrained: small plates, large plates, burgers, sides and healthy options are just half the sections on the menu. We actually have to send our server away twice before we can even make a choice on our drinks. Luckily, our server is highly knowledgeable as well as patient: he clearly knows the menu back-to-front and takes our tastes into account for his advice, so we eventually get there.

 The Mac Daddy'O: a warm and smoky success of a vegan mac 'n' cheese.

The cocktails, of course, are all vegan, and most have a new ingredient or two that differentiates it from the cocktails you’d get in most restaurants. However, most sound a little more exciting on-menu than they are in your mouth: though very tasty, the Matcha Green Tea Machito is fairly indistinguishable from your run-of-the-mill mojito, which is disappointing when considering the £10 price tag. The best-tasting cocktail is in fact the restaurant’s Whisky Sour, which pretends to be nothing but what it is: a delicious combination of Johnny Walker and lemon, with a cute maraschino cherry popped on top. The Vegroni is exciting for reasons outside of taste: the cocktail is encased in a glass bell jar filled with smoke, which escapes theatrically when the bell jar is lifted off to reveal a decadently pink drink.
 
The Machito: a mojito with a green matcha tea twist

Two small plates start us off: the Mac Daddy’O, a vegan mac and cheese, is has a warm and smoky flavour. Out of all vegan dishes, I’ve never particularly enjoyed a vegan mac and cheese, so this is a challenge, but it’s a winner. The smoky ‘chorizo’ chunks are a nice touch, adding texture, and the dish is made by the unexpected but happily welcomed dollop of guacamole on top of it, which adds freshness to what otherwise might be a very starchy dish. Our other small plate, are the sweetly named Jumpin’ Jacks: jackfruit tempura. Jackfruit is one of the rising stars of veganism and the dish makes good use of the chunky, meat-like texture with Asian-inspired flavours, though they come out a little oily.
 
The McWho?: could it really make you forget Ronald?

It’s arguable that any vegan or vegetarian place can be measured by the quality of its non-meat burgers, and at The Meet you’ll have four different options (without a crumb of halloumi in sight!), from jerk style tofu with pineapple salsa and sweet plantain to a garlicky mushroom, beet and bean burger. I go for the classic McWho?, as it contains the most meat-imitation, and I figure The Meet is up to the challenge. The burger kind of wins me over. A good, crisp onion ring is never unenjoyable, and the 'bacon' is surprisingly good, but the patty leaves something to be desired: it falls, unfortunately, into mushy territory; territory most vegan food has to studiously avoid. However, the I Don’t Give a Lamb! (whoever wrote the menu deserves a small trophy, honestly) does better. An open kebab, the 3 bean and tofu koftes have great bite and the dish has a deliciously fresh, salty and sour combination of tastes.

The Vegroni: a great bit of theatre to add to a meal
 
To finish off, we're offered a chocolate milkshake - with a shot of bourbon. The milkshake is delicious, possibly the highlight of the meal, and it's hard to taste the alcohol at all, which is rather dangerous. It's also huge and impossible to finish, which is perhaps for the best, because even if it’s vegan I don’t want to imagine what it’s doing to my arteries. Regrettably, our Saturday night visit didn’t allow us to explore the range of brunch and roast options that are available on weekend mornings and Sundays respectively, but the breakfast options were enough to make us drool even after trying to finish that milkshake.
 
Considering that vegans themselves will feel spoilt for choice with even half the number of items on the menu as there actually were, it might have done The Meet good to edit their menu down slightly and focus on fewer dishes to avoid any swings and misses. But for comfort food, The Meet certainly achieves what they are setting out to do, with a selection of tasty and indulgent dishes that’ll pacify vegans and carnivores alike: you’ll certainly leave feeling chilled out.

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